Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Smoking Guns

So I read this story in Harper's about a journalist detained indefinitely after prize-winning, critical reporting in Iraq. After reading this story I was upset enough to post my own criticism here.

But first I did a little digging. It turns out the there is quite a bit more to the story.

Bilal Hussein was a cell phone vendor in Iraq when he landed a job as a "fixer", a man who helps you rent a car and get interviews, and later as a "stringer", a local provider news leads, for the Associated Press.

The AP indeed has led some reporting critical of the war in Iraq (oops, I thought they were supposed to be an unbiased source of background news and photos for others to use to make up their minds and to write editorials). And this reporting, including one of Bilal's photos, did win an intra-industry award (the Pulitzer).

But Bilal just takes photos... he is not responsible for the AP's spin. So why was he detained?

Bilal Hussein, via Winds of Change commentary.

It turns out that out of more than 400 photos he sold the AP, some 36 show insurgents up close and personal while they are conducting operations... one included the torture and interegation of a local Iraqi "collaborator".

So the military finally decided that this guy has had a little too cozy a relationship with the insurgents and picked him up. They have given varying explanations to the AP and even changed their story, but they wont set him free.

Is this muzzling of the Free Press, that vaunted institution of the American body politic? Maybe.

Scott Kesterson, via KGW's war blogs.

But in a day of searching the Internet I was able to find only one photo as "up close and personal" as some of Bilal's... it appears to show an Afghan "friendly" firing a similar piece of equipment. The point is that the photographer and the man with the gun are on the same side.

So, the AP hired a local Iraqi to be their eyes for them as most of their Western reporters are (wisely) holed up inside the relatively safer Green Zone. They hired him because he can move in an around the "bad guys" with out notice. Maybe that's because he is one of them?

Maybe not. Maybe he is an upstanding local man who just wants to get "the truth out" about the war in his country? Or maybe he just needs the money?

Regardless, Bilal, and the AP, were effectively aiding and abetting our enemies with free propaganda... photos of themselves carrying out "brave" attacks against the Infidel... photos and videos that have been used by the terrorists to recruit more agents. So the military, ours, detained him.

As far as I know the US Army has not detained a Western reporter, or an American one, doing similar work. Then again, as I noted, I have not found anyone doing similar work.

Yes, Western journalists sometimes sit down with "bad guys" for an interview. Daniel Pearl lost his life trying to get some "face time" with a high ranking Al Queda terrorist (and they killed him). This is usually in some poorly lit apartment (or cave) and is often quite dull footage of someone repeating "talking-points".

But they don't often get invited to film violent terrorist operations as they are carried out. If they did I would imagine a lot of consternation as the photographer tries to snap a picture of his own people getting killed by the bad guy he came to interview - he might even want to shout out a warning before being kicked in the stomach (OK, I still expect most of them to snap the pic too).

Other Western journalists "embed" with our troops and do document our actions. They get to come along for the ride to provide a public record. But they are expected not to give away tactical information (got that Geraldo?) and they are expected to be somewhat sympathetic to our cause.

The question here is what should we do about reporters who end up on the other side? I am not too keen on giving them a Pulitzer and a platform. I kinda wonder what the press is thinking sometimes. But then again, after Green Helmet and White T-shirt I am not suprised.

Sean: Saturday, April 14, 2007 [+] |
Friday, April 13, 2007
Brave New World

The founding of new Charter Schools is a movement that has swept through the American public education system. They are embraced by exasperated educators and parents alike as a "fix" to the big, bloated, and blighted public high school run by the model that has been traditional since WWII. Are they the future, the best future, that we could hope for?

In some of these schools college or the arts are the focus, in other's it is technical training for a job. This is the public school equivalent of a Prep School and a Vocational Academy. Except that it isn't.

While parents can petition to get their children into various of these "charter school" they cannot be guaranteed placement (for obvious logistical reasons). Besides, how many kids know what they want to be at 14, or even by 21? Self-selecting for either a career, dancing shoes, or a wrench at that age is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon our new superintendent has been shuttering public elementary schools to create K-8's. The argument is that the former "middle school" kids can put off the responsibilities of changing classes, they can better avoid bullying, and they can help out younger kids with tutoring and mentoring services.

However the real reason behind this shift is that a K-8 teacher requires less education for certification and thus can be paid less. And the arguments about the pressures of high school go against the original intent of middle school, which was to offer kids a gradual introduction to the stress of high school (which only slightly resembles the stress of real life people).

These changes are all a threat to the original civic intention of public education. As a reminder... schools were designed to break down traditional biases about strangers (specifically Catholics vs. Protestants) by grinding one kid against the other. It was indeed often painful (as I can still recall), but in general it worked.

Originally public schools were never designed to get us into college... that was the role of Prep Schools for our wealthier neighbors. Public schools were all merely to get us to a basic factory or service job (people who wanted a trade went to trade schools or apprenticeships).

But today a college education is as fundamental to our workforce as a high school diploma once was (when public schools opened in Oregon in the late 19Th century only a diploma and a year or so of training was required to teach in those schools - today you need a four year college degree and two years of post graduate studies to teach in a high school).

So, dividing up our schools to pursue "charters" in specific skill sets or squashing all the kids into cheaper K-8 systems is just giving up on the leveling, and raising, efforts of the institution. We are forcing families and kids to choose their station in life as soon as they enter puberty. Forget fancy names like "Digital Harbor" or "Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School" (WCCS) - just call them by their qualitative designations... Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.

Sean: Friday, April 13, 2007 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere